Your new movie Crisis Point - in a few words, what is it about?
It's about two lifelong friends who were raised as sisters in an orphanage,
and the good and bad things they go through together.
What were your sources of inspiration when writing Crisis Point?
be honest, I found inspiration in a lot of different places. Horror films,
classic literature, music, especially from the 1970s and 80s. But one of
the main things was that I've always wanted to tell a more introspective,
personal story. So a lot of the film is based on experiences I've had, and
secrets entrusted to me by close female friends. I had to be very
respectful of their stories because it's their truth. Their names aren't
used because they wanted to remain anonymous. But their hearts and souls
are all through the film.
to my information, Crisis Point is your first feature after
directing a number of shorts - so what made you pick exactly this script
for your feature debut?
If I'm being honest, at first... it
was the cost. I didn't have a big budget available to me. Actually, it was
more of a short film budget (AUD $20,000). So I couldn't really do
anything blasé or grandiose. After my investor died of emphysema, I had
to make a life-changing decision. Either I used the funds that I saved for
a long overdue holiday or I scrapped the project. It seems like an easy
choice in retrospect but it kept me awake for weeks. I contemplated
re-purposing my efforts into perhaps doing my own version of Mary
Shelley's Frankenstein, or Tod Browning's
Freaks. And for a long time, I
even toyed with writing the scripts to both. Since they're both in the
public domain. But nothing held my attention like Crisis Point. It was
like being in love. There aren't words to properly describe why I felt
like I needed to do this film. But it was most definitely a NEED. I'd
still love to adapt Frankenstein, and some of the elements of that book
are featured - albeit in a different way - in Crisis Point. But, I
really didn't want to make a horror film as my first feature. I love
horror but I thought I couldn't compete with the good directors. People
like Jen and Sylvia Soska [Jen
and Sylvia Soska - click here], Alexandre Aja, and even Sam Raimi. Also, horror
is all-too-frequently used as a genre for debut directors who make awful
films because they can't afford to make decent ones. So, if I was going to
make a feature film, I wanted to play with a new approach, by instead
making a very dark drama about the traumas of life. Terrifying truths. And
I realised that these were things I could shoot for cheap as long as I had
the right anchor point and the right team. I don't think it could work
without actors who were willing to give their all. Or a crew that was just
as passionate about making this as I was.
What can you tell us about your
movie's approach to horror?
My overall thought
process toward Crisis Point was that real life is horror. The news tells
us everyday that someone was killed, or attacked, or harassed. Someone
killed their own wife. A woman drowned her infant children. Decapitations.
You name it. We're seeing it and hearing it every single day. I've dabbled
in horror before (ghosts, zombies, etc). But this time I wanted to tell a
more real-life horror story. So I stripped the film of all but events that
could happen, that - in some cases - have happened. Some of the things
are still happening to people around the world right now. Taboo subjects
such as rape, drug abuse and sexual violence became the tools of horror
instead of hulking murderers with machetes. Monsters were, as they are in
real life, the people and/or the choices they make. In keeping with this
approach, I adopted a faux documentary style. There are interviews,
re-enactments, narration, photographs, etc. All of it combined to create
this sense of raw humanity. Which was entirely the point. But I've also
wanted to make a giallo film for as long as I can remember. And Crisis
Point was a story about two women, sisters by rote but not by blood. And I
started thinking about how a witch's coven is a kind of sisterhood. While
Crisis Point isn't about witches or magic, I incorporated an aesthetic
that paid loving homage to my favorite horror film - Dario Argento's
Suspiria (1977). Crisis Point was, of course, an experiment. I had no idea
whether this was all gonna work or not. Only the audience can tell you
that, unfortunately. But I am proud of the film. Probably the most
satisfied I've been with any of my previous work.
A few words about
your overall directorial approach to your story at hand?
One thing I've noticed with a lot of other Australian directors is that they
don't give much thought to some of the aspects involved with making a film.
For example, if they know how they want the actors to perform, they might
focus on them and leave the technical aspects to their crew. I'm far too
invested in my work and I've been accused several times of micromanaging but
I've always been very hands-on with all of the departments. I like being the
primary source of creativity. And I don't think it's possible to really get
YOUR vision across unless you stamp your foot down firmly. That said, I keep
my eyes and ears open, and sometimes things turn out better when somebody else
has an idea. But you have to know what fits and never ever go against your own
concept. If somebody else's idea complements the story you're trying to tell,
good. And some of my favorite moments in Crisis Point were actually things I
didn't write. Certain looks. Ad-libs. An extra moving through the frame to
make a more dynamic camera movement. You can become too close to something if
you don't allow any kind of outside interference. Having worked in the
industry for the last 15 years, I made a fair few contacts with some amazing
people who signed up based on the strength of the script. And they worked for
“mate's rates”, which meant I didn't have to pay them an arm and a leg. I
would have if I'd had the money. But I wouldn't be able to afford even one of
them with the budget I had. We all worked like a family and I think it shows.
I think, in order to be a good leader, you need to listen as well as trust
your team. And I found it really easy with this group.
can you tell us about Crisis Point's key cast, and why exactly
Casting was interesting. We actually held
auditions this time. The first time I've ever done a professional casting
call because I've always used actors that I met on other directors' sets.
I usually cast according to the personality of an actor. It's something I
learned by reading an interview with Tim Burton about why he always worked
with Johnny Depp. I met Cassandra Smith, for example, on the set of Into Black
(Jay A. Glen's first feature). And I instantly saw her in
the role of... Alex. But Cass turned the role down because she didn't have
the time to commit to it. So I offered her Erin instead, and she agreed. At
the time, though, the character of Erin was a bit part. I think she only
featured in a handful of small scenes and that was it. Oddly enough,
circumstances forced script changes and Erin ended up becoming just as
important a part of my film as Alex. Maybe more so. I originally wrote
Erin as a blond because she was inspired by Greta Gerwig in Frances Ha,
one of my favorite films. And I'd love to meet Gerwig or Noah Baumbach one
day, if only to praise their work and thank them for their inspiration.
But I think Cass' portrayal was really what made the character lovable and
identifiable, and human. Being a faux documentary, I had the distinct
challenge of not only casting an anchor point to Erin but to also cast
someone who could play the real life version of her. Chantal Elyse was the
only actress who bedazzled me when we did the auditions. But I still
didn't know for sure that she'd fit until I discussed it with Dan (my
producer) and Krista Potter (my 1AD). Out of the entire cast, I think
Chantal was the only risk I took. And, in my opinion, she did an amazing
job countering Cass. Their Alex/Erin dynamic was perfect. I hired Holly
Rooth to play the real Erin because I saw her in another actor's show
reel. That sounds awful, I know. But sometimes these things happen. My
producer, again, was instrumental in setting up a meeting and we (Holly,
Dan and I) had a personal discussion rather than talking about work.
Holly's open approach was why she was cast. Well, that and she had the
look we were after. And she was wonderful to work with. So much of her
performance packs an emotional punch. On the first day, during real Erin's
interviews, Krista and Cody Murray (my clapper) were in tears. And I was
in awe. Just as I was with Kylie Stephenson, who played the real Alex. But
for very different reasons. She brought a freshness to the character that
was both humorously twisted and deadly serious. A double-edged sword. I
couldn't have asked for a better cast.
Do talk about the shoot as such, and the
I read once that with comedy you have to
be strict but with horror you should have fun. I am, of course,
paraphrasing. But I found this to be true. I mean, there is a lot of
disturbing content in Crisis Point. So I made sure the vibe was fun and
full of laughs. I don't remember a single day on set where there wasn't at
least one small chuckle. And we were all giving up our free time on
weekends, between paid work (film or otherwise) during the week. This made
it absolutely imperative that the on-set vibe was positive. Obviously, we
all worked very hard to reach the daily goals. And more often than not we
succeeded. But it wasn't a slave driver environment at all. By the end of
it, I had some of the cast and crew thanking me for having them on board.
I always felt I should have been thanking them. But it was an honor to be
praised by such amazing talent. Most of them I still consider part of my
The $64 question of course, where can
your movie be seen?
Unfortunately, Crisis Point won't be
available to the general public for a little while. It has just started on
the film festival circuit. Which Dan and I, and everyone involved, are
very excited about. Obviously, we are aiming very high. But my main target
is Toronto After Dark because I love the vibe. And I love Canadian horror.
In fact, both David Cronenberg's Videodrome and Panos Cosmatos' Beyond the Black Rainbow were a huge influence on
Anything you can tell us about
audience and critical reception of Crisis Point yet?
privately shown a fair few friends and industry professionals who didn't
work on the production, and really didn't know much about it. And the
consensus is generally positive. I mean, there have definitely been
criticisms. Some of them unfortunately I can't change. But these are
lessons you learn as you keep making films. And everyone's favorite
character tends to change with each viewers' individual perspective. My
favorite is obviously Erin.
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
Any future projects you'd like to share?
actually dabbling in adapting Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu's gothic classic, Carmilla.
I've always wanted to make a vampire film. And with the resurgence of
vampire fiction (i.e. - BBC's
Morbius and Blade, etc), it seems like the perfect time.
Except I'm looking at changing the setting to modern day with the focus of
vampirism being more akin to the real-life subculture. I can't say too
much else right now because it's still early days yet. But it's coming
together really well so far. So, this is the likeliest concept I will be
for the interview!